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Lost Son, a novel about Rilke


by M. Allen Cunningham
(This edition published 2007 by Unbridled Books)

"[You] feel gradually, in joy and astonishment, the magic of Rilke reach out from every page. Lost Son is at once a subtle and signal imaginative achievement." -Ihab Hassan

"Gripping and beautifully written...incredibly ambitious." -Strand Books, New York

""Powerful...the perfect amalgamation of imagination and research...This haunting and very human story allows readers to catch a glimpse of the artist's soul."- Annie Blooms Booksellers

"Cunningham has taken risks...and he has succeeded in producing an offbeat and absorbing literary work." -Library Journal

"Lyrical and moving." -Booklist

"Cast[s] a spell." -Bloomsbury Review

"An exquisitely written homage to [the] famous artist ... Moving from Rilke's birth in 1875 to his death in 1917, Cunningham delves deep into Rilke's personality and his development as a poet, in the process shaping a portrait of a man formed by his dark, unfinished past.  ... Vivid, melodic, and retaining a lyrical beauty throughout, Cunningham writes with a passionate commitment to Rilke's poetry and life. Meticulously researched and seamlessly infusing fact with fiction, Lost Son  is a vast monument to the power of the creative spirit and a grand testament to the artistic avant-garde movements that swept across Europe at the beginning of the 20th century." -Curled Up with a Good Book

"Cunningham's writing is beautiful and fluid. I found myself torn, lingering over passages and yet eager to rush on...For a writer not yet 30, Cunningham has achieved a mature style and authentic voice in Lost Son. He shows how Rilke cultivated the sense of dislocation that fostered his best work, especially during the years he lived in Paris "namelessly alone," witnessing the terrifying scenes he would mold into the feverish visions of his alter ego Malte, the Prodigal Son, 'a man who didn't want to be loved.' But I'm not sure it's right to see Lost Son simply as a fictional biography of Rilke. It is also Cunningham's spiritual autobiography, his own fierce identification with the poet's commitment to art...mesmerizing." -The Oregonian

"So sensitive and sad—as befits a poet—that it sent me to the obvious destination: a book of Rilke's poems." -Good Housekeeping

"Lost Son is . . . awe-inspiring in the depth of research Cunningham has done to produce the book and in the depth of understanding the novel reveals regarding Rilke’s life, his struggles, his loves, and his literary work. Covering the years of Rilke’s life from 1875-1917, Lost Son covers a period of time when Europe was undergoing many dramatic and tumultuous changes. Entire countries were being devoured and rearranged. Art, literature, architecture, and poetry were being re-imagined and readied for the twentieth century and Cunningham has painted a rich portrait of those changing times." -Steve Turnbull, Nougat Magazine

"From the opening pages the reader is transported to turn-of-the-last-century Europe, and Cunningham does a wonderful job of depicting Rilke's world in a strikingly visceral fashion...More importantly, Rilke emerges from the narrative as a complex figure." -Small Press Reviews

"This is no dry biography. Rather, with beautifully expressive prose, M. Allen Cunningham is able not only to evoke the poet's angst, but also to get the reader to empathize with it....You'll want to savor every word. I found myself buying Cunningham's previous novel and starting to read Rilke's poems." -Historical Novels Review

"As one who has, for many years, loved the poetry and thought of Rilke, I found this to be a remarkable novel that succeeded wonderfully in capturing both the ‘magic’ and the ‘empty too much’ of Rilke as man and artist.” -Amazon reader review

Lost Son is the story of beloved poet Rainer Maria Rilke, a man unique among artists of the modern age. From Rilke’s troubled beginnings — reared as a girl until age six, then sent to military school for five miserable years — through his later experiences in the midst of World War I, Lost Son dramatizes the troubles and triumphs this immensely vulnerable personality encountered as he made his way in the world.

Lost Son brings Rilke’s significant relationships powerfully alive, including his close friendships with the sculptor Rodin and the German expressionist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker. At the heart of the novel is Rilke’s legendary attachment to his one-time lover and lifelong muse, the incomparable Lou Andreas-Salomé—confidante of Nietzsche, and later, Freud.

More than a fictionalized biography, Lost Son is a dark and intimate fantasia on Rilkean themes. The novel captures the uncanniness of Rilke’s pre-poetic perceptions as the world impresses itself on his senses. It depicts Rilke’s intense artistic maturation from ultra-sensitized young Romantic to lyric master. It explores the ageless problem of our imperfect loyalties in life, and meditates lyrically upon the distances that can separate life and art.